- Don’t wear a Fitbit through airport security – if you do it guarantees a body pat down due to the ‘unauthorised metal in the left leg area’. Although this was a lot less stressful than last year when my new shoes set off the airport scanner as ‘explosive’.
- Don’t watch the propeller out of the plane window if your seat happens to be next to one– once you’ve started to watch it you will feel compelled to keep your eye on it for the whole journey, in case it stops. Your ‘nervous flyer’ status will be elevated to ‘hysterical flyer’.
- Do walk along St Brelade’s Bay beach – it’s beautiful. I think it would be too busy for me in the summer, but in Autumn it was nice and quiet and at times felt like my own private beach.
- Do visit St Brelades’s Bay church – it reminds me of the church in ‘John Carpenters The Fog’. But there were no foggy ghost pirates there.
- Do remember to pack some tweezers – an unforgiving hotel bathroom mirror revealed that I’d travelled over disguised as Hercule Poirot.
- Don’t have your phone sat nav set for ‘car route’ when you are a pedestrian – you will walk miles extra than you need to.
- Do laugh loudly while being transported on the land boat, ‘The Charming Nancy’, across the causeway to Elizabeth Castle – it’s quite impossible not to laugh as they play the James Bond theme loudly, while driving at 5mph.
- Do watch the sunset while sat on a deserted beach – it’s just magical.
- Do triple check the opening times of Mount Orgueil castle before you hike up there – arriving for a visit on the day they have closed for the winter is disappointingly pants.
- Don’t visit the fruit bat enclosure first at Durrell park – it’s a humid 28 degrees and you will walk around the rest of the park looking like a sweaty plague victim.
- Do check out Portelet Bay from the cliff top walk – Amazing views, and a handy bench to sit and enjoy the panorama.
- Do stop to take photos walking back on the causeway from Corbiere lighthouse – it’s a good excuse to get your breath back.
- Do imagine yourself to be on another planet at Corbiere lighthouse – the boulders shaped by the sea are amazing, I felt like I was on a set from Star Trek. I never knew I’d get so excited by rocks.
- Don’t expect the glass church to be actually made of glass – only certain bits of the interior are made of glass.
- Don’t say yes to healing prayer if you are an atheist – you’ll struggle to keep a straight face and still have a sore throat when you leave. Actually the throat got worse.
- Don’t assume that all non-moving people in the Jersey War Tunnels are mannequins – they might be humans stood really still reading information cards on the walls, and will make you squeak when they eventually move.
- Do sit for a while at night in St Brelade’s Bay church – I sat there alone on Halloween night and nearly gave myself heart failure imagining foggy ghost pirates.
- Do chat to people at bus stops – I met the delightful Pat, from Bolton originally but lived in Jersey for 50 years now, she does Zumba every Thursday morning in the church hall. And at a different bus stop I met Sarah and Pete from Frinton (Enfield originally), a lovely couple who happened to be staying in the same hotel as me, we had drinks the following night together.
- Don’t answers other tourists’ questions while sat in the Fisherman’s church in St Brelade’s Bay – they might think you are a guide/volunteer, and then more people entering the church will assume that too and gather around you in a semi-circle, to listen to you reciting the facts you read in the leaflet by the door.
- Do visit the only cinema on the island if you are having film withdrawal – I watched ‘Dr. Strange’ which was excellent.
(Scene: sat on a bus, near the back, approximately 10 other passengers on board. Couple move from seat on my right to seats in front of me.)
Why have they moved?
I don’t know, maybe the sun was in their faces on that side.
Oh, yes, probably.
Oh no, there’s a wasp, they’ve moved from the wasp. It’s followed them though. They’ve brought the wasp over to our side!
Well if she stops waving her hands about it will go away.
They’re moving back now.
Good, the wasp is moving too.
Yay, it’s going down the front of the bus.
Can everyone stop waving their arms around, they’re making the wasp angry.
If it stings you, I bet you go into anaphylactic shock.
Don’t be a drama queen.
You’re allergic to penicillin, pet saliva and fur, feathers, and broad beans. And you have a swollen throat already because you’re ill. A sting from that wasp could make your throat swell, even a little more, and you could die.
You’re such an idiot.
It’s coming back up the bus!
Don’t panic. If I just keep still it won’t bother us. I’ll make myself invisible to the wasp.
You’re wearing the most floral blouse you have, and you’re wearing fleur de fig perfume, you couldn’t make yourself more attractive to the wasp unless you dressed as a female wasp.
Just keep still.
Christ it’s on the windowsill in front now. If it comes near us, you’ll have to kill it. No one else on the bus is going to. It’s the wasp or you. You decide.
What can I kill it with?
Your kindle is in your bag.
Don’t be stupid, there’s a note book in there too I can use.
Well slide your hand in and get it out ready. The wasp is getting closer. That’s it, nice and slowly.
I’m ready for it now. Where did it go?
I don’t know, we share the same eyes, I was looking in the bag with you. Everyone else is looking around for it too.
Maybe it went out the wind-ohhhh…IT’S ON MY FUCKING FACE!
It’s on my fucking face!
Follow your own advice, keep perfectly still, don’t make any sudden movements to scare it.
I’m not even breathing. It’s on my face. It’s doing a fudging tango on my cheek. I can feel its tippy-tappy feet. Bastard.
Keep calm. Don’t cry, your salty tears will only aggravate it.
I don’t think I can keep my silent screaming silent for much longer.
I can’t believe the man over there just told you to keep still because it’s on your face.
I know! Does he think I don’t know this! Fudge Womble!
You’ve got quicker reflexes than I thought.
That didn’t seem quick, that seemed to take forever to buzz from my cheek to the headrest in front.
Are you sure he’s dead?
When I whacked him, his head propelled two seats forward, I’m pretty sure he’s dead. Even if he was a zombie wasp, he’d be dead.
Did that lady really tut at you because you killed the wasp?
I think so yes. Numpty nugget.
A stranger on a train made me cry. They didn’t say anything to me, they didn’t look at me, they were probably completely unaware of my existence, yet they had a profound effect on me.
On a busy train to London the carriages filled up. I tend to avoid having someone sit next to me by letting my face drop into ‘resting mode’. My resting mode face is a serial killer/prison warder combo. Plus, it helps that I am large, not many people want to squeeze into a seat next to the fattest person in the carriage. Especially on a warm day. Anyway, this particular day all the seats had filled up so I stared into space out of the window as we pulled into Reading station, resigned to the fact that I would have to share my personal space for the final half hour of my journey. I hate having someone in the seat next to me as I usually get people with foul aromas that smell of fish, urine, garlic, rancid armpits, or a combination of those. Or people who eat. But not pleasant things like mints or lemon sherbets, I get people sitting next to me who eat egg sandwiches, and, I kid you not, some woman once ate pilchards next to me, heads and everything. I had to close my eyes and coat my nostrils in peach lip balm to avoid vomit rising.
On this occasion though the only odor that wafted my way, as a man sat down next to me, was a delicious aftershave. Lap tray down, laptop out, head down, answering his emails. I don’t think he even gave me a first glance let alone a second. I was pleased I hadn’t been joined by a reeker, an eater, or indeed a reeky eater. I carried on watching the countryside whizz by. Then something strange happened.
I was suddenly aware of the warmth from the strangers’ arm. Our arms were touching, aligned. Nothing remarkable, nothing exceptional, just two people squished together on a busy train. To someone else that may have been the end of the experience. But I felt an emotional surge. Feeling the warmth from another human being was quite overwhelming.
I have been single for a long time and those closest to me (my mum and my daughter) are non-touchy feely people, no I love you’s, or hugs or affection. Which is fine for them, that is who they are. I however am a touchy feely person. But I have lived without physical human contact for such a long time that I’d actually forgotten how it felt. And I don’t mean in a sexual way, just in the sensory form of touch. Sat next to the man on the train, absorbing his body heat I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because it felt good and I remembered the feeling of being physically close with a loved one. The random thought that went through my head was ‘if I was sat on a sofa with a partner this is what it would feel like’. (It’s irrelevant that I don’t have a sofa to go with a non-existent partner). I also wanted to cry because I thought of everyone else having someone they love to hold and touch, yet all I had was this random stranger on a train. I felt sorry for myself and I hated that.
The experience has passed. I’m now back to feeling fine with my unwritten no contact clause. It now doesn’t bother me again, just that one moment on the train. Obviously it made a difference that the man on the train was good looking and wore a wonderful aftershave, if it had been the lady in tweed from a few weeks earlier who smelled of onions and eels I don’t think I would have had the same experience.
So the moral of my tale is enjoy your human contact, be it on the sofa next to a loved one or sat next to a stranger on a train. But don’t go touching random people or holding hands with strangers, that might get you into trouble. Just be thankful.
Careers I Could Have Had (if it wasn’t for a few little things)
Astronaut – This was my first career choice, aged five. The thought of exploring the universe was extremely amazing to me, but in reality I got motion sickness in my mum’s Citroen 2CV Dolly car, so the thought of having my internal organs behaving like a lava lamp in zero gravity was a bit of a dampener. And I didn’t want floating poo anywhere near me. Not mine and certainly not anyone else’s. Add the fact that there wasn’t a huge recruitment for NASA training in 1977 Wales, my Astronaut dream remained just that.
Florist – I love flowers. One of my favourite subject matters to photograph. I just think they are all so beautiful and flowers always make me smile, so what could be more perfect to work with. Well, it would be perfect if I didn’t have hay fever. And loath early mornings. Getting up early for the flower markets when you’re a night owl would not be pretty.
Teacher – I toyed once with the idea of being a teacher. Sharing knowledge to others, shaping young lives, having lots of holidays, etc. But then I realized that I don’t like children and it would be shear hell on earth. So I stopped toying with that idea.
Funeral director – I was, and still am, obsessed by death. What could be more perfect than becoming an undertaker? I like to work alone, like unsociable hours and could do hair and make-up on a corpse better than on a real live human. I had my careers talk in school on being a funeral director when I was fifteen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get work experience with any funeral directors. Or quite possibly fortunately. I’m incredibly squeamish. If I get a paper cut I need a lie down, and I have to look away when watching ‘Casualty’. Which is a bit of a contradiction as I love watching horror films and seeing people being mutilated. But my love of horror films would probably have made me more jittery than a live chicken at a voodoo party, not good when working alone with dead bodies. I would have given myself a heart attack by week two. I’ll stick to the horror films.
Marine biologist – I’ve always been fascinated by the sea. I get excited that a lot of it is still so unknown and there could be any number of weird and wonderful creatures down there. But having watched Jaws when I was six years old I have not been able to swim in the sea since. I have an irrational fear that I will have my legs bitten off by a shark. Which is a shame as I’m a good swimmer. I even had to get out of a swimming pool once as I was convinced the grills in the deep end of the pool (that controlled the wave machine) were hiding a shark that would be released when the waves were switched on. Yes, my brain is that much of an idiot. So there’s no way I could wet suit up and go diving in the sea. There’s actually no way I could wet suit up full stop; I don’t think there’s enough talcum powder in the UK to squeeze me into a suit. And if I did I’d have Greenpeace boats circling around me, protecting me from whalers.
Professional dancer – When I was little I loved watching the dancers on Top of the Pops. Pans People, Legs & Co, Hot Gossip, I loved watching them all. I even wrote to Jim’ll Fix It asking for Jim to fix it for me to dance with them. In retrospect I’m glad my letter wasn’t picked. But I wanted to dance and wear pretty floaty outfits with sparkles on, lots of sparkles. This however could not be a career choice of mine as being overweight with a severe lack of co-ordination is a hindrance to a dancer. I just dance unprofessionally in private now.
Vet – I love animals and helping to heal them would have been ideal. If I wasn’t allergic to animal fur and saliva. I think a vet specializing in the hairless Cornish rex cat and goldfish would be a little too niche. I would also find this too emotional, if I couldn’t save an animal I would be devastated and if I thought someone’s pet would be better off with me I would steal it and take it to my animal sanctuary that I would undoubtedly need. I would become a ‘petkleptomaniac’.
So there’s some career choices I didn’t make. But when I die I intend to have my ashes fired up into space (they’re attached to a rocket then parachuted off when out of Earth’s atmosphere apparently), so maybe I’ll get to explore the universe and become an astronaut after all.
Every year I make the same New Year’s resolutions. To lose weight, get fit, and be nicer to people. When this doesn’t pan out by January 5th I resign myself to being one of life’s failures and I hibernate face down in a bag of Thornton’s Viennese truffles, consoling myself that I can try again next year. Well this year I have decided to give myself more realistic and achievable goals for the year ahead so I can feel on top of the world. Or at least on top of a high skyscraper. One with safety railings in place. On a non-windy day. Here are ten I believe I can achieve.
1. I will do the washing up every day. Or at least every other day. Otherwise, even though I live on my own, it appears like I’ve had a large dinner party every time I wash up.
2. I will not leave empty toilet roll tubes in the bathroom. Just because you can build a Roman temple out of them doesn’t mean you should.
3. I will shave my legs more often so that it doesn’t resemble a Wookiee massacre in the bath when I do.
4. I will use less cocktail umbrellas in everyday drinks. This is far to frivolous when I’m saving for a transatlantic trip.
5. I will eat more bananas and less fudge. I don’t think I eat enough bananas. I think I eat too much fudge.
6. I will not google medical symptoms to self-diagnose myself. Last year I had a brain tumor, a heart attack, an assortment of cancers and erectile dysfunction.
7. I will watch less television. My current 51 hours a week is far too excessive. 49.5 hours is my new target.
8. I will attempt to eat more green food. And unfortunately that doesn’t mean peppermint Aero’s. Does it?
9. I will not yawn in public without covering my mouth with my hand. It looks like I’m doing a performance art piece based on Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. It’s not attractive or ladylike.
10. I will not shove whole Jaffa cakes into my mouth. Again, not attractive or ladylike.
So there you are, lower your expectations of yourself and release your inner winner.
(Dedicated to anyone who’s ever dipped their toe into internet dating waters)
Over the years I’ve been an intermittent user of online dating. Well, I say user, browser is more the correct term. I hardly met anyone from online dating sites, and this was not all down to me being picky, judgemental and anxious when it came to searching for a man. Ok, I am judgemental. I was put off by so many bad profiles. You could be the most wonderful person in the world but if your profile presents you badly you will be swiped left quicker than a greased up penguin on a water slide.
To help avoid tumbleweed on your exciting new dating account I have compiled some handy tips on what not to do for any men setting up a profile.
Your profile picture is important. Most people tick the box for ‘profiles with pic’ in their initial search, so if you haven’t got one then you have eliminated yourself from a big batch of ladies already. We want to see what you look like. No one would walk into a bar blindfolded and start chatting to potential dates, same principle here. So here we go.
Don’t pose in candlelight. If you do it could be assumed that you don’t pay your electricity bill, or that you look hideous in daylight.Or that you are a vampire.
Don’t wear sunglasses. Why are you hiding your eyes? They are the windows to your soul. Is your soul a scary place to peer into? Or maybe you are just boss eyed. There’s nothing wrong with that, but be honest.
Don’t use a dated photo from the seventies or eighties. If you think that’s your best photo, with a mullet/perm and orange polyester flares/turquoise shell suit, then goodness knows what you look like now. Not many women will be willing to take that chance. And if they are, then they are going to be more desperate than you.
Don’t pose in front of a tractor. You’re on a dating site, not featuring in ‘Farmers Weekly’. We like to imagine a man smelling of Joop, not poop.
Don’t post a photo of yourself wearing socks and sandals. This just screams out that you’ve not been near a woman in a while. A long while. An incredibly long while. And that you most likely still live with your mother.
Don’t post a photo of yourself crouched down by a riverbank holding a large brown trout. Again, you are on a dating site, not the letters page of ‘Angling Times’. Not many women will be thrilled with the prospect of you smelling of fish. If they are, you need to track down that specialist site.
Talking of specialist sites, please don’t post photos of yourself head to toe in a red latex gimp suit. If this is your ‘thing’ you’re better off on a site more catered to the fetish world. Side point – Why is it only weirdly shaped people, think human space hopper, that like to wear sprayed on PVC?
Please smile, it’s not a mugshot. You haven’t been arrested. Yet. So many profiles I’ve seen have frowning, miserable or disinterested faces staring back. Who wants to date Mr Angry, Mr Downer, or Mr Constipated?
Don’t post a photo that also has your friends in it. Especially if they are better looking than you. Although, if you think you are being clever by popping on a pic of you with ugly friends to make yourself look good, that could backfire if the ladies viewing think you’re that ugly one. So to avoid confusion all around, just post a photo of yourself alone. Or with a dog. No one will get you mixed up with a dog. But don’t just post a photo of your dog on its own. That’s just weird. Someone wants to potentially date you, not your pet.
Don’t post a photo of yourself drunk. You might think you giving the impression of being a fun party goer but you’re not. You just look like a twat. A drunken twat.
Don’t post a photo of yourself hugging a female. She may well be your sister but when glancing at the photo we won’t know this. We will assume she’s your last girlfriend. This is even worse if your sister is really attractive.We will think we are not pretty enough for you and move on. Sad but true.
Don’t post photos with your children in them. For a start you shouldn’t be putting pics of your children anywhere near a dating site. If you are pictured with your tribe of children it might be seen that you are just looking for a mother for your kids and not a partner for yourself. Maria Von Trapp apply within.
Don’t post up a torso shot of yourself. Yes, it’s lovely if you have an abdomen circa Peter Andre in 1996, but the fact that you don’t show your face indicates that either you look like the elephant man or that you are married. Both thoughts will get a swipe left into the reject pile of no return.
Now you have your profile picture sorted and have captured a lady’s eye, you need to have a good write up about yourself to capture the other bits of the lady that is looking at/scrutinizing you. Different dating sites have various sections and subsections for you to fill in. Please don’t leave blanks or write ‘I’ll fill this in later’. This just tells the reader that you can’t really be bothered and that you are lazy or stupid. None of which are qualities you look for in a new partner. You wouldn’t submit a CV to an employer with just your name on and ‘I’m looking for a job’ scrawled across it would you? If you would, stop reading now, there is no hope for you.
There’s usually a ‘tell us about yourself’ section. This is where you can dazzle the multitude of ladies out there and make yourself the must have date. Don’t be too generic. Make the viewer remember you, for the right reasons. Saying that you like sunsets, kittens and walks along the beach is far too clichéd and doesn’t narrow down things in common with your perfect person. After all, everyone likes that don’t they? You might as well say I love eating, sleeping and breathing. Then two thousand potential daters say ‘ooh I like that too!’ Be more specific. By revealing you like The Walking Dead, non-alcoholic pina coladas and taking photographs of marzipan animals, you might not get two thousand interested people but you will eliminate the people that you wouldn’t get along with. Although a word of caution – if the things you like are a bit too weird (making statues of European landmarks from your ear wax, eating roadkill, liking Coldplay) then maybe not advertise this.
The ‘what are you looking for’ section is slightly trickier. If you’re too specific, ‘I’m looking for a 5’5 tall skinny redhead with long curly hair’ you could be eliminating your perfect partner. A 5’4 tall skinny redhead with long curly hair might skip past you when she could be the one, or it might appear that you are not over your ex and are just searching for a lookalike. On the other hand, if you’re too vague ‘I’m looking for someone with a pulse’, you could seem a little desperate. Aim for something in the middle – ‘I’m looking for a fellow film buff who enjoys both snuggling on the sofa with a hot chocolate and going out and about exploring new places together, armed with a camera and a picnic.’ Set a scene for the lady reading your profile, let them imagine themselves in that scene with you, let them want to be in that scene with you.
Finally, your opening message is important too. You’ve done all the ground work with your amazing profile so you don’t want to sabotage that effort. Don’t go for a one word ‘hi’. While this is better than nothing at all, it’s not very imaginative. If the lady in question has just received twenty messages, you want yours to stand out from the herd. Don’t open with ‘You’re stunning, I would’, ‘You don’t look 40’, ‘Your hair looks nice’, or ‘I think you could be my next wife’. Yes, I have had all of these gems genuinely as a first message. While these were all meant to be complimentary, as an opening message they come across as being a bit creepy. The best opening messages are ones that show you’ve read the other person’s profile. Ask a question too as this is more likely to get a response. ‘Hi, I see you like horror films, my favourite is John Carpenters ‘The Fog’, what’s yours?’ is more likely to get you a reply than just ‘Hi’.
So there you are, a quick guide to setting up your online dating profile and getting one step closer to extra Christmas presents. And wearing your best pants.
Actually, always wear your best pants.
1. Airport security are not a warm welcome to America. Do not smile, try to be friendly, speak before you are spoken to, or sweat so much it appears that you are trying to disguise your fingerprints on their electronic hand scanner. If you do all of the above they will look at you as if you have smeared peanut butter on their pet Chihuahua and licked it. That’s not something you should do either.
2. Everyone says ‘you’re welcome’ if you say thank you. It sounded a bit weird and ‘Stepford Wives’ at first but then it becomes endearing. Or creepy. It flips between the two.
3. Never try to control an umbrella in the wind and rain on Liberty Island. Lady Liberty will just watch over you and snigger as you do your best Mary Poppins impression. She’s quite sturdy to withstand the weather there. The Statue of Liberty that is, not Mary Poppins.
4. American eateries presume you are eating for three. I know I look like I’ve smuggled a family of Mexicans under my shirt but I really only want food for one.
5. In high tide you need mountaineering skills to board the gangway of the Liberty tour boat. Shoes with grips are recommended. Or crampons. If you have those with you then you will board the boat with the grace and poise of a gazelle, instead of the bottom out stumbling style of a tipsy hippo that I demonstrated.
6. The ‘Skyride’ at the Empire State Building is NOT the lift to the viewing deck. Do not do what I did and wander in thinking you are going in a fast elevator only to be seated with a rollercoaster bar locked over you and an icy cold flow of ‘uh oh’ twisting through your veins. Apparently you see New York from a helicopter perspective. I didn’t as I found the inside of my eyelids less vomit inducing to watch. The jolting movements were enough of a stimulation to me and my stomach.
7. Books in the public library are well hidden. I couldn’t see any. I thought I’d wandered into a museum instead. They probably did have some there but I like books to ooze out rather than have to be squeezed out.
8. Look out for low tree branches and traffic lights when on a tour bus. If you are 5’8 or above the chances of your head smacking on low bobbing objects are 72%. It will however cause you great exhilaration when you dodge a head shot.
9. There are more adverts than actual shows on the television channels. If you have a short attention span this is great, if not it’s just very annoying.
10. All medical ads come with so many disclaimers I’m surprised they sell any products at all. Most medicine pitches end with ‘this product may cause heart failure’.
11. There are so many channels on the television but not much to watch. If you like news and sports though you will be fine.
12. Fire engine sirens sound like a person screaming while falling from a high building. I thought there were a lot of suicides happening before realising this.
13. Teachers don’t like to supervise their children at the Ellis Island museum at all times as they are instructed to do. My mind Taser didn’t work on them unfortunately.
14. The largest sapphire in the world in the American Museum of Natural History looks like a glass paperweight. I think someone may have switched it when the security guard wasn’t looking. He looked very bored and could have been easily distracted with a pastrami sandwich and a fizzy drink.
15. Chinatown is the place for a massage. Every other store is a massage emporium.
16. Macy’s is just a department store. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was underwhelmed. Maybe because I don’t like shopping, it might have been paradise to others but it was just a big shop to me.
17. It’s very friendly, friendlier than London I thought.
18. A medium drink carton in the Regal Cinema on 42nd Street is twice the size of my bladder.
19. If you are getting in a cab in rush hour you need to either close your eyes or pretend you are filming the latest Fast and Furious movie.
20. New York police direct traffic at night with flashing glow sticks. I could not be trusted with flashing glow sticks. I would dance.
21. I love New York City more than I thought I would and will return again and again. And again.